Study: White Capitol Protesters Fear Losing Rights to Minorities (Getty Images)
By Brian Freeman | Wednesday, 07 April 2021 01:01 PM
Most of the estimated 380 people arrested in connection with the January 6 attack on the Capitol came from places where white people feared their rights in American politics and culture were being taken away by minorities and immigrants, political scientist Robert Pape found in a study he conducted, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
"If you look back in history, there has always been a series of far-right extremist movements responding to new waves of immigration to the United States or to movements for civil rights by minority groups," Pape said. "You see a common pattern in the Capitol insurrectionists. They are mainly middle-class to upper-middle-class whites who are worried that, as social changes occur around them, they will see a decline in their status in the future."
Pape said that the most crucial finding in his study was that counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic white population are the most likely to produce protesters.
He added that this held true even when controlling for population size, distance to Washington, unemployment rate, and urban or rural location.
In Pape’s study, conducted with the help of researchers at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, a think tank that he runs at the University of Chicago, he determined that only about 10% of those charged were members of established far-right organizations.
However, he emphasized that the remaining 90% of the "ordinary" protesters constitute a still solidifying mass movement on the right that has proven itself willing to put "violence at its core."
"If all of this is really rooted in the politics of social change, then we have to realize that it’s not going to be solved — or solved alone — by law enforcement agencies," Pape said. "This is political violence, not just ordinary criminal violence, and it is going to require both additional information and a strategic approach."
He suggested that right-wing media outlets will stoke fear about whites losing their rights to minorities and, therefore, the racial and cultural anxieties that lay beneath the attack at the Capitol are not going away.
Pape said that in American history other mass movements have formed in response to large-scale cultural change.
For example, in the mid-1800s, the Know Nothing Party, a group of nativist Protestants, was established in response to large waves of mostly Irish Catholic immigration to the United States.
In a similar fashion, Pape said the Ku Klux Klan experienced a revival after World War I that was spurred, in part, by the arrival of Italian immigrants to the country and the beginnings of the so-called Great Migration of Black Americans from the rural South to the industrialized North.
Law enforcement officials have estimated that between 800 and 1,000 people entered the Capitol on January 6. In recent court filings, the government has indicated that more than 400 people may face charges at some point.